(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Virtual Reality

“In the lingo, this imaginary place is known as the Metaverse”*…

The estimable Genevieve Bell looks back beyond Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash to the deeper-than-you-might-think history of “the metaverse”– and explains the importance of understanding it…

…histories are more than just backstories. They are backbones and blueprints and maps to territories that have already been traversed. Knowing the history of a technology, or the ideas it embodies, can provide better questions, reveal potential pitfalls and lessons already learned, and open a window onto the lives of those who learned them. The metaverse—which is not nearly as new as it looks—is no exception…

I think there are even earlier histories that could inform our thinking. Before Second Life. Before virtual and augmented reality. Before the web and the internet. Before mobile phones and personal computers. Before television, and radio, and movies. Before any of that, an enormous iron and glass building arose in London’s Hyde Park. It was the summer of 1851, and the future was on display… The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, as the extraordinary event was formally known, was the brainchild of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s beloved consort…

Just as there is a straight line from the Midway to Coney Island to Disneyland, there is a straight line from the White City to the 1939 New York World’s Fair to the Consumer Electronics Show. We can also draw a line between the Great Exhibition and today’s metaverse. Like the virtual world that the metaverse’s promoters promise, the Great Exhibition was a world within the world, full of the splendors of its day and promises about the future. But even as it opened up new spaces of possibility—and profit—it also amplified and reproduced existing power structures through its choices of exhibits and exhibitors, its reliance on the Royal Society for curation, and its constant erasure of colonial reality. All this helped ensure that the future would look remarkably British. The exhibition harnessed the power of steam and telegraphy to bring visitors to a space of new experiences, while masking the impact of such technological might; engines and pipes were hidden underground out of plain sight. It was a deliberate sleight of hand. If Brontë saw magic—not power, xenophobia, and nationalism—that was what she was intended to see.

I think our history with proto-­metaverses should make us more skeptical about any claims for the emancipatory power of technology and technology platforms. After all, each of them both encountered and reproduced various kinds of social inequities, even as they strove not to, and many created problems that their designers did not foresee. Yet this history should also let us be alive to the possibilities of wondrous, unexpected invention and innovation, and it should remind us that there will not be a singular experience of the metaverse. It will mean different things to different people, and may give rise to new ideas and ideologies. The Great Exhibition generated anxiety and wonder, and it alternately haunted and shaped a generation of thinkers and doers. I like to wonder who will author this metaverse’s Bleak House or Alice in Wonderland in response to what they encounter there. 

The Great Exhibition and its array of descendants speak to the long and complicated human history of world-making. Exploring these many histories and pre-­histories can be generative and revelatory. The metaverse will never be an end in itself. Rather, it will be many things: a space of exploration, a gateway, an inspiration, or even a refuge. Whatever it becomes, it will always be in dialogue with the world that has built it. The architects of the metaverse will need to have an eye to the world beyond the virtual. And in the 21st century, this will surely mean more than worrying about ancient elm trees and the tensile strength of glass. It will mean thinking deeply about our potential and our limitations as makers of new worlds…

To understand what we are—and should be—building, we need to look beyond Snow Crash: “The metaverse is a new word for an old idea,” from @feraldata in @techreview via @sentiers (soft paywall). Eminently worth reading in full.

See also “So what is “the metaverse,” exactly?” (source of the image above).

* Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash

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As we stew over simulacra, we might recall that it was on this date in 1903 that Morris Michtom began selling stuffed bears in his toy shop on this day in 1903. Earlier, he had asked President Theodore Roosevelt for permission to use the president’s nickname, Teddy, to which the president agreed. Soon, other toy companies were churning out copies of their own “Teddy Bears”– still among the most popular children’s toys (and also popular as adult gifts signifying affection, congratulations, or sympathy).

Bear formerly owned by Kermit Roosevelt, thought to be made by Michtom, early 1900s; Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, 2012

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“All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”*…

Of the 270,000 photographs commissioned by the US Farm Security Administration to document the Great Depression more than a third were “killed.” As we wrestle with the stories we’re being told, an update of an earlier post

From his office at the Farm Security Administration (FSA) in Washington, D.C., Roy Stryker saw, time and again, the reality of the Great Depression, and the poverty and desperation gripping America’s rural communities. As head of the Information Division and manager of the FSA’s photo-documentary project, his job was to hire and brief photographers, and then select images they captured for distribution and publication. His eye helped shape the way we view the Great Depression, even today.

Professionally, Stryker was known for two things: preserving thousands of photographs from being destroyed for political reasons, and for “killing” lots of photos himself. Negatives he liked were selected to be printed. Those he didn’t—ones that didn’t fit the narrative and perspective of the FSA at the time, perhaps—were met with the business end of hole punch, which left gaping black voids in place of hog’s bellysindustrial landscapes, and the faces of farmworkers.

In 1935, the Resettlement Administration (RA) was established as part of the New Deal to provide relief, recovery, and reform to rural areas. The FSA, created in 1937, was its spiritual successor. The FSA’s duties included, but were not limited to, operating camps for victims of the Dust Bowl, setting up homestead communities, and providing education to more than 400,000 migrant families. Communicating about its efforts was also part of its mandate…

Stryker sought out photographers, among them Dorothea LangeGordon Parks, and Arthur Rothstein, and made their images readily available to the press. Given the lack of new photography and art being produced during the Great Depression, the photos regularly appeared in magazines such as LIFE and Look. He also had them displayed at the 1936 Democratic National Convention, the 1936 World’s Fair, the Museum of Modern Art, and other prominent venues. The publication of a series of early photographs, including Lange’s Migrant Mother, proved instrumental in pushing the federal government to provide emergency aid to migrant workers in California.

In the effort to represent the FSA and Roosevelt’s signature domestic achievement in a positive light, the chosen photos captured how the idealistic views of farm life were being tainted by poverty, and how the FSA programs were helping farmers reclaim their dignity. Common elements were decrepit housing conditions, the lack of food and clean water, and harsh work environments.

It was government propaganda, and there were certainly some within the government (both supporters and detractors) who saw it that way, and more who considered both the FSA and its photography project as communist and un-American. In a 1972 Interview, Stryker admits to having felt political pressure from the Department of Agriculture to portray the effectiveness of the New Deal. “Go to hell,” was his response. His photographers “were warned repeatedly not to manipulate their subjects in order to get more dramatic images, and their pictures were almost always printed without cropping or retouching.”

But there is a way to manipulate the story being told without altering the images themselves—the process of photo editing, of choosing which images to highlight and which to discard…

The fascinating story of one man’s (materially successful) effort to galvanize social and political opinion: “How a Hole Punch Shaped Public Perception of the Great Depression.”

See also “The Kept and the Killed.”

And for an equally-fascinating consideration of how emerging new visual technologies might similarly be used to sway sentiment, read Fred Turner‘s “The Politics of Virtual Reality.”

* Richard Avedon

###

As we contemplate cuts, we might recall that it was on this date in 1940 that the first Social Security check– for $22.54– was issued to Ida May Fuller.

The Social Security Program had been created in 1935, with qualification for eligibility (covered earnings) beginning in 1937. So Ms. Fuller, a teacher-turned legal-secretary, had been accumulating credit for three years. She lived to 100 years old and collected a total of $22,888.

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“The ancient Oracle said that I was the wisest of all the Greeks. It is because I alone, of all the Greeks, know that I know nothing.”*…

The site of the oracle at Dodona

Your correspondent will be off-line for the next 10 days or so; regular service will resume on or around April 26th. In the meantime, a meeting of the (very) old and the (very) new…

The Virtual Reality Oracle (VRO) is a first-person virtual reality experience of oracular divination at the ancient Greek site of Dodona circa 450 BCE. Immerse yourself in the lives of ordinary people and community leaders alike as they travel to Dodona to consult the gods. Inspired by the questions they posed on themes as wide-ranging as wellbeing, work, and theft, perhaps you in turn will ask your question of Zeus?…

Homer mentioned Dodona; now you can be there, then. An immersive experience of the ancient Greek gods: “Virtual Reality Oracle.”

* Socrates

###

As we look for answers, we might recall that it was on this date in 1977 that both the Apple II and Commodore PET 2001 personal computers were introduced at the first annual West Coast Computer Faire.

Ironically, Commodore had previously rejected purchasing the Apple II from Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, deciding to build their own computers. Both computers used the same processor, the MOS 6502, but the companies had two different design strategies and it showed on this day. Apple wanted to build computers with more features at a higher price point. Commodore wanted to sell less feature-filled computers at a lower price point. The Apple II had color, graphics, and sound selling for $1298. The Commodore PET only had a monochrome display and was priced at $795.

Note, it was very difficult finding a picture with both an original Apple II (not IIe) and Commodore PET 2001. I could only find this picture that also includes the TRS-80, another PC introduced later in 1977.

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The photo mentioned above: The Apple II is back left; the PET, back right

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 16, 2021 at 1:01 am

“The idea of a ‘virtual reality’ such as the Metaverse is by now widespread in the computer-graphics community and is being implemented in a number of different ways”*…

 

Metaverse-1020x620-c-default

 

Technology frequently produces surprises that nobody predicts. However, the biggest developments are often anticipated decades in advance. In 1945 Vannevar Bush described what he-called the “Memex”, a single device that would store all books, records and communications, and mechanically link them together by association. This concept was then used to formulate the idea of “hypertext” (a term coined two decades later), which in turn guided the development of the World Wide Web (developed another two decades later). The “Streaming Wars” have only just begun, yet the first streaming video took place more than 25 years ago. What’s more, many of the attributes of this so-called war have been hypothesized for decades, such as virtually infinite supplies of content, on-demand playback, interactivity, dynamic and personalized ads, and the value of converging content with distribution.

In this sense, the rough outlines of future solutions are often understood and, in a sense, agreed upon well in advance of the technical capacity to produce them. Still, it’s often impossible to predict how they’ll fall into place, which features matter more or less, what sort of governance models or competitive dynamics will drive them, or what new experiences will be produced…

Since the late 1970s and early 1980s, many of those in the technology community have imagined a future state of, if not quasi-successor to, the Internet – called the “Metaverse”. And it would revolutionize not just the infrastructure layer of the digital world, but also much of the physical one, as well as all the services and platforms atop them, how they work, and what they sell. Although the full vision for the Metaverse remains hard to define, seemingly fantastical, and decades away, the pieces have started to feel very real. And as always with this sort of change, its arc is as long and unpredictable as its end state is lucrative.

To this end, the Metaverse has become the newest macro-goal for many of the world’s tech giants…

Matthew Ball (@ballmatthew)  peers ahead: “The Metaverse: What It Is, Where to Find it, Who Will Build It, and Fortnite.”

[image above: source]

* “The idea of a ‘virtual reality’ such as the Metaverse is by now widespread in the computer-graphics community and is being implemented in a number of different ways. The particular vision of the Metaverse as expressed in this novel originated from idle discussion between me and Jaime (Captain Bandwidth) Taaffe — which does not imply that blame for any of the unrealistic or tawdry aspects of the Metaverse should be placed on anyone but me. The words ‘avatar’ (in the sense used here) and ‘Metaverse’ are my inventions, which I came up with when I decided that existing words (such as ‘virtual reality’) were simply too awkward to use. […] after the first publication of Snow Crash, I learned that the term ‘avatar’ has actually been in use for a number of years as part of a virtual reality system called ‘Habitat’ […] in addition to avatars, Habitat includes many of the basic features of the Metaverse as described in this book”…   – Neal Stephenson, Author’s acknowledgments, Snow Crash, Bantam, 2003 (reissue)

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As we visualize the virtual, we might recall that it was on this date in 1978 that the first computer bulletin board system went on-line.  Created in Chicago by Ward Christensen and Randy Suess, the Computerized Bulletin Board System (CBBS) had been built in 30 days.

250px-Remoteaccess1 source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 15, 2020 at 1:01 am

“All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”*…

 

From his office at the Farm Security Administration (FSA) in Washington, D.C., Roy Stryker saw, time and again, the reality of the Great Depression, and the poverty and desperation gripping America’s rural communities. As head of the Information Division and manager of the FSA’s photo-documentary project, his job was to hire and brief photographers, and then select images they captured for distribution and publication. His eye helped shape the way we view the Great Depression, even today.

Professionally, Stryker was known for two things: preserving thousands of photographs from being destroyed for political reasons, and for “killing” lots of photos himself. Negatives he liked were selected to be printed. Those he didn’t—ones that didn’t fit the narrative and perspective of the FSA at the time, perhaps—were met with the business end of hole punch, which left gaping black voids in place of hog’s bellysindustrial landscapes, and the faces of farmworkers.

In 1935, the Resettlement Administration (RA) was established as part of the New Deal to provide relief, recovery, and reform to rural areas. The FSA, created in 1937, was its spiritual successor. The FSA’s duties included, but were not limited to, operating camps for victims of the Dust Bowl, setting up homestead communities, and providing education to more than 400,000 migrant families. Communicating about its efforts was also part of its mandate…

Stryker sought out photographers, among them Dorothea LangeGordon Parks, and Arthur Rothstein, and made their images readily available to the press. Given the lack of new photography and art being produced during the Great Depression, the photos regularly appeared in magazines such as LIFE and Look. He also had them displayed at the 1936 Democratic National Convention, the 1936 World’s Fair, the Museum of Modern Art, and other prominent venues. The publication of a series of early photographs, including Lange’s Migrant Mother, proved instrumental in pushing the federal government to provide emergency aid to migrant workers in California.

In the effort to represent the FSA and Roosevelt’s signature domestic achievement in a positive light, the chosen photos captured how the idealistic views of farm life were being tainted by poverty, and how the FSA programs were helping farmers reclaim their dignity. Common elements were decrepit housing conditions, the lack of food and clean water, and harsh work environments.

It was government propaganda, and there were certainly some within the government (both supporters and detractors) who saw it that way, and more who considered both the FSA and its photography project as communist and un-American. In a 1972 Interview, Stryker admits to having felt political pressure from the Department of Agriculture to portray the effectiveness of the New Deal. “Go to hell,” was his response. His photographers “were warned repeatedly not to manipulate their subjects in order to get more dramatic images, and their pictures were almost always printed without cropping or retouching.”

But there is a way to manipulate the story being told without altering the images themselves—the process of photo editing, of choosing which images to highlight and which to discard…

The fascinating story of one man’s (materially successful) effort to galvanize social and political opinion: “How a Hole Punch Shaped Public Perception of the Great Depression.”

And for an equally-fascinating consideration of how emerging new visual technologies might similarly be used to sway sentiment, read Fred Turner‘s “The Politics of Virtual Reality.”

* Richard Avedon

###

As we celebrate skepticism, we might recall that it was on this date in 1977 that Nolan Bushnell (co-founder of video game pioneer Atari) opened the first Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre, ultimately a chain of family destinations that served pizza and other menu items, complemented by arcade games, amusement rides, and animatronic displays as a focus of entertainment (and often, birthday party celebration).  It took its name from its main animatronic character Chuck E. Cheese, a mouse who sang and interacted with guests.  Over 600 outlets are operating today in the U.S. and 17 other countries.

Chuck E. Cheese and Nolan Bushnell (Bushnell on right)

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