More views of the Uncanny Valley

God, what’s wrong with me? I enjoy any mention of the Uncanny Valley, especially when there is scientific evidence about the existence of it/how our brains react to it.

It appears that there is evidence of an issue in our brain when we encounter the Uncanny Valley. The activity in our brain when we see three different types of objects were scanned using fMRI: robot, android, and human. From my understanding of the scans, it looks like our brains reacted JUST similarly enough to both Android and Human motion/appearance to make it seem unsettling that the android was not human. In simpler terms,  I guess you could say that there was just something off about the motion of the Android that made us aware of the fact that it wasn’t human.

Maybe it is the fight or flight response – our brain is taking in all of these cues regarding the person in front of us, processing it for behavior, action, appearance, and then encouraging us to act on what we see. A human moves how we expect it to me, with fluidity, bending motions, etc, whereas an android, no matter how well designed the gears, motors, rotors, moving parts, still moves similarly to a robot. We see what we think is a human, but it moves like a robot – induce panic, fear, action. In some cases, it just creates a sense of unease.

I have never actually experienced the Uncanny Valley before, but I have felt in my gut that things were off in things that aren’t related to human/android interactions. I may be looking at a book or some kind of print, and feel ill at ease regarding it – maybe I subconsciously realized that it was offset, or had typos and I get this vague feeling that something was wrong. I wonder if the Uncanny Valley is applicable to this feeling, or if I’m just hoping to put a phrase to it. Maybe it’s intuition, or just being particular. Any clues?

Brainscans in the Uncanny Valley – Boing Boing.

The Internet as subject: referencing pop culture in works of art

In slowly trying to finish off my Draft posts queue, I sometimes wonder what I was thinking when I saved an article to writer about later on. I think I liked this article mainly because of the confluence it depicts regarding the rise and acceptance of the Internet in our daily lives and the need for writers to address the existence of the Internet.

I often wonder how writers of a certain generation choose to deal with the popular culture of the time. For example, how did writers in the 60’s address the hippie movement, free love, all of that jazz? Was it something that they focused on, or was it mainly some throw away comment that no one will ever really remember? Notice that I mention Popular Culture, because culture itself should be mentioned and addressed in works of art. I mean, look at the works of art that were created during World War II – they were mainly reactions to the big cultural event at the time.

I wonder why we place less emphasis on Popular Culture and it’s effect on art – by definition, popular culture is the more widespread and accepted form of culture. Referring back to the article I link below, I can’t believe there is even a question about how to address the rise to importance of the Internet on our daily lives. As something that affects our actions and decisions every day, it is imperative to address it in art. I can understand the worry that referencing something that is constantly evolving could be seen as something dangerous – what if your reference becomes outdated quickly? What do you do? But at the same time, it seems negligent not to discuss something that we are all familiar with. Crafting a novel that is set in the present time, and to ignore the effects of the Internet, just seems odd and outdate – like the author is a Luddite.

As one commenter pointed out, the issue with referencing the Internet is that the vast majority of it is textual – it’s a little boring to mention text in your novel, I guess. Anyway, things to ponder regarding this topic: what other popular culture movements have you noticed there being a lack of in works of art? Do you think not recognizing the effects of the Internet, and not referencing it in works of art, show that the author is out of touch with reality?  I’ll wait to hear back from other regarding this, before I put up my own thoughts and ideas as a comment.

How novels came to terms with the internet | Books | The Guardian.

Synesthetic Language Development?

I have a friend who has a slight issue with what she calls “synesthesia”. Well, perhaps it’s not synesthesia, but rather a strong sense memory. She actually gave me a bottle of body wash once because she couldn’t use it because of the memory it evokes. When I think of synesthesia, I think of it as related to this old school game called Rez:

I was always sad that I didn’t get to play it, but from what I’ve seen of it, it looks amazing like some crazy experience combining music and visuals (and tactile experiences using the Trance Vibrator (only in Japan)). Apparently it’s been released for the Xbox Live Arcade, so I might look into purchasing it for my brother. Using this as an example, I like to think of synesthesia as having your wires crossed – you see music, you taste sounds, you smell colors, etc. It’s not enough to say that your senses are heightened or that they evoke a memory – if anything, that’s pretty common place (for example, take Proust – A Remembrance of Things Past/À la recherche du temps perdu and the tea/madeleine memory)

In any case, back to the point of this post: synesthesia as a connector between languages. A recent New Scientist article suggests that the way words are spelled implies a connection to how we view a word. For example, there is something in the way the word “apple” sounds that evokes an image of the apple. This is a poor example, as we already have an association to the word apple and the image of the apple. However, think of what happened when we first created words. We create a memory and a connection to the word and it’s image. Perhaps this image is just the corporeal form of the apple. But what if this connection we create has something to do with the smell of the fruit, or the taste of the fruit. At this point, we aren’t just calling it an apple because it looks like one, but rather it reminds us of one.

Given the existence of loanwords (words borrowed from other languages) I wonder if we can say that these loanwords have a synesthetic connection to the idea of the object described? Can anyone think of a loanword and the object that it is associated with? Is there something about that word that lead to it’s usage, rather than the creation of a new word?

I find this fascinating and often wonder why I never took a psychology class – I’d love to study the idea of memory and it’s creation. There was a class offered at SJSU about language and memory and the creation of language. If only I had the time to take that class, I would have been ALL over it…
Synesthesia and the origins of language – Boing Boing.

I *heart* Interface Analyses

I love reviews of different user interfaces. Ever since I took a class at SJSU SLIS about Web Usability, and even before that when I was a closet graphic design major wannabe (does that even work?), I was in love with the way we interact with computers and terminals and phones and other things.

There has been a lot of hub-bub today about the release of Lion, the newest version of Mac OS X. Rather than focus on the elements that are new or the new features, I’d like to point out an in-depth review of the update. Within this review is probably my favorite section of any software/hardware review I’ve ever read: the author reviews the interface updates that have taken place with Lion. In all honesty, I’m not a designer, so I can’t really comment too much on whether something is necessarily ugly or not. For me, a lot of my perceptions regarding an interface comes from how I interact with an object. If to me, the interface is awkward or difficult to understand, I take the time to figure out why I think it’s awkward and then absorb that so that I no longer will commit such sins against interface design in my work.

Okay, let’s get on to the actual discussion of the review. One of my favorite phrases, if you have known me long enough, is “mental bandwidth”. For example, if I am reading three books, and working on three projects, I am currently at my mental bandwidth limit – it describes exactly how much brain processing power I have available. It’s not necessarily a comment on ones intelligence, but rather their ability to deal with issues and items that come on. So this reviewer mentioned that the “bandwidth” necessary to parse an interface has increased greatly in the past few years. This comment reminds me of an assignment I had where we had to provide examples of good and bad interface design. One example was sleek, smooth, and handily provided all options that were necessary. The other provided every option IMAGINABLE on screen…creating a cluttered look. The mental bandwidth necessary to deal with this type of interface is greater than one that is simple and to the point. I think this is one of the best aspects of Apple design – they have Human Interface Guidelines for all of their products. In this way, they ensure that products are easy to understand and use.

One off-shoot of simple and smooth design is using real life analogues to replicate the feel and intention of a product. Apparently, in Lion, iCal and the Address Book provide the experience/look of their analog copies. Despite the fact that these changes do not negatively affect the usability of the product, it also doesn’t necessarily add functionality. I’m of the mind that the design of the product should increase it’s value. I guess you could say that I’m very “form follows function”. I’ll have to deal with these interfaces more before I can truly pass judgement, but I guess these changes are fine – as long as the product is still usable then who cares about the design. It’s not as if I had a hand in creating the interface, so I shouldn’t complain.

Here’s to the Crazy Ones – Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Review

Online handles as a discussion of identity change

God, to look back at my first online handle is like…foreverago.

Let’s see…I think the first screen name I used was back in like, 1992 – whatever generic AOL screenname we had. I’m pretty sure I used my parents screen name then convinced them to let me create my own AOL name. That became ARCRA25 – ARC – my initials. RA – repeated for good measure. There were apparently 25 other ARCRAs out there. Nice and generic yes?

This handle stuck with me until high school…senior year. I created a new AIM screen name to um, anonymously chat with a friend….yeah, let’s go with that story. This became “secretfanofu”.

OH actually..before this, I had a variety of screen names that I used on DDRFreak, to chat with folks about Dance Dance Revolution. The one that stuck with me the most…was TemporarySpastic. 1) Let’s get serious, I’m a little spazzy. 2) This was from a Wu-Tang Clan name generator. 3) it was often shortened to “spazzy”.

Back to “secretfanofu” – this screen name stuck with me forever. Until recently, I used either secretfanofu or my full name, andrewcarlos as an identity. Now, I’m trying to unite my online identities as a librarian and information professional under @infoglut.

What about you? Share your stories about embarrassing online handles!

The Eternal Shame of Your First Online Handle – Technology – GOOD.

Visualizing the Food Desert

It’s been a long time since I did anything related to cartography. I think the last project I did using GIS was back in 2008. It’s been too long and I need to find a way to become much more proficient at it. I’d like to someday develop the skills and knowledge that would make me a good map/GIS librarian – perhaps I could pursue a MURP or an MA in Geography…

In any case, I thought this might be an interesting project – visualizing Food Deserts. So for those unfamiliar with this concept, the USDA has kindly provided this definition:

The United States Department of Agriculture defines food deserts as places where at least a fifth of the population lives at or below the poverty line, and a third of the population lives more than a mile from a large grocery store.

I’d love to get some data from the Census bureau and create an interactive map that allows you to visualize food deserts in local areas, perhaps add an additional layer to it that shows the availability of fast food restaurants as a replacement for a grocery store.

Project aside, it seems odd that in this day and age there could be a food desert – I guess what makes me  question this is the fact that I’ve lived within a mile of a large grocery store pretty much my entire life. I can’t imagine that it’s like to not have access to one. Granted, that’s only half of the definition – to the best of my knowledge, I haven’t lived in an area where a fifth of the population lived below the poverty line. I guess I’m blessed in that I have never had to worry about where my next meal will come from. I wish there was a way for me to help the community better…

Source: Beyond the Food Desert Mirage – Food – GOOD.

Lesson Planning Is So Much Fun

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working on modifying my lesson plans for my upcoming web design class. It’s a shorter class than I taught last year, so I want to make sure that I’ll be able to cover all of the topics that I want to cover. I leave it up to the students as to how much we cover – even though it’s summer school, I still want them to enjoy the class. I had to do a lot of editing work in terms of topics – I tried to scrunch a four week class into a two week session. Out went all of my Web 2.0 focused classes – instead of a day focused on these tools, we will discuss how they are used throughout the course. I did manage to free up two days, in which I am going to try to teach a little bit of Scratch, a programming language. Nothing too intensive, but I want the students to have a taste of it – maybe they will be encouraged to take up computer science and programming!

I actually just finished teaching a three week summer school class on video production last week. It was a good turn out this year – 6 students. We were all able to create videos individually and to learn how to work as a group to create one product. I think it went well, and the students had so much fun creating videos and learning how to edit them. While it would have been grand if I could have shown the students how to use iMovie, I was working at a school that did not have Macs for their students – we were working on Windows PCs, using Windows Movie Maker. The ideas are the same, though the steps might be different. We created three major projects – a commercial, a mini-documentary, and a music video. I have to send the videos to my students soon, since I’m sure they would like to have them.

It’s been a very busy summer…I’ve been teaching summer school all summer, plus have presentations to plan! I ended up getting two proposals accepted at Internet Librarian 2011 and one for CLA 2011 in Pasadena. Man, this will be a busy year for conferences. I’ll divulge a few more details about my presentations in a later post.

Creating a community of librarians – Thing 2

So I’m working on CPD23Things and this week…last week, we were to go around to various blogs and comment and read. This was a great oppurtunity to read the work of other librarians – I don’t usually read the personal blogs of other librarians, but I figure this would be a good time for me to find others who share my interests.

As it turns out, CPD23 categorized my blog as a School library blog (or at least, that’s what it looks like under the Delicious account). This is fine, since that is mainly what I do right now, but doesn’t accurately express my interests in librarianship. I should consider updating it, but we will see.

One thing that is definitely interesting is finding librarians who aren’t from the US. I’d love to read their interests and thoughts and hopefully form a community that spans different continents. I’d especially like to find librarians who are interested in technology, as I would love to find out how different countries are adapting to new communication mediums.

I’ve been awful, and haven’t really engaged too many people. Since I’ll have much more free time in the next few weeks, I’ll try to engage the community more. Other than those of you who have commented on my blog, I haven’t gone out to find others or engaged others in conversation. I really should, as this is partially the reason why I joined this 23Things! Time to get on that whole “networking” thing…

23 Things for Professional Development

I’ve been meaning to do a 23 Things for the longest time. I’m glad that one of my facebook friends posted that she was doing this, as it introduced me to the idea of doing this as well.

I’m doing this program mainly for the networking aspect of it. I want to see what others out there are doing in terms of professional development and see what I can glean from their experience. I’m already vaguely familiar, if not proficient in much of the technology being discussed but really, I could use a new perspective. I’ve been using the technologies in a certain way for the longest time and I think I need a breathe of fresh air and a new way of thinking about how to use them. I’m hoping to meet others doing 23 Things and to expand my network of similar-minded folks.

Actually, I’m pretty excited for the Personal Brand section. I feel that I’ve developed a certain brand, a certain style in my writing and what I talk about, but any insight as to how to develop a better brand is always welcome. Maybe I’ll even come up with a logo for myself. Who knows?

I’ll be setting up a Category for all of my 23Things posts, so that they will be easier to follow.

DIY and the Librarian Perspective

So this has been something that I’ve been kicking around for a few months but I have finally gotten the chance to put some ideas down on (digital) paper.

I’ve always been interested in the DIY movement, in the Maker movement, in different aspects of programming and digital life. To this end, I have actually gotten together with a friend and we are working on a project encouraging librarians to take part in these movements. It’s all very exciting right now and nebulous but I think once we get our thoughts straightened out, it’ll be a great project.

I don’t know exactly how many librarians would be into this idea, but it really couldn’t hurt to put it out there. I think there should be enough to start it off and then, with proper marketing and advertisement at conferences and social media, we will be able to get a good amount of people interested in the idea of DIY and Maker Faire-type events for Librarians.

Here are some things that I am currently working on/enjoy DIYing/having fun with:

  1. Learning Processing – I want to do an interactive art project regarding space in a gallery
  2. Learning Ruby on Rails – working on a few websites for myself and for friends. Working on creating an Assignment Calculator for work – students can use it to determine how much time they have, what steps they need to take, what resources are available to them
  3. Learning how to bookbind – I’ve always wanted to do this and it seems SOOOOO fun
  4. Knitting – I’m so behind on my projects, it’s embarrassing

So keep an eye out for an announcement regarding the beginning of this project. We are still hammering out minor details (such as the name of the project) but hopefully we can launch it by Internet Librarian 2011 – seems like a great place to launch a program like this.

way too much information, all the time