Thursday, January 27, 2005

Fifth Law of Media

There are four laws in McLuhan's Laws of Media and thus the tetrad. Here is a Fifth Law of Media - present in a blog.

What current medium does the new medium put on, or satirize?

Certainly worth exploring.

Medium is the Massage - Soundtrack

McLuhan's Medium is the Massage is both a book and album published in 1967. It was the first successful "multimedia" production that I'm aware of. While "multimedia" publishing (e.g., CDROM inside the book) is common now, it was unheard of 30 years ago. Both still stand up well IMHO.

Unlike previous books which were standard text, this book was a graphic explosion. It has been reprinted by Gingko Press. I found a sample page in an old issue of McLuhan Studies.

The album was also pioneering. Unlike Robert Frost reading his poems or a series of songs, each side was one long recording. The album is no longer available but I recent found the Medium is the Massage on mp3 files on ubuweb. I just listen to both (each side is a different mp3) for the first time in probably 20 years.

Repeat, Medium is the Massage album is on mp3!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Comments on Design and Laws of Media

I left this comment on Mind, Media and Society II. There was a post about Massive Change and design.

The process of design creates an artifact.

This is design as a verb and shows how it relates to the Laws of Media. It is also useful in the deconstruction of the artifact.

More often we use design as a noun. I think you can then say design is the artifact. McLuhan applied the Laws of Media to many different artifacts. So design really is everywhere. The depth of design, and thus artifacts, is detailed in David M. Levy's book, Scrolling Forward.

If design really is everywhere then the question becomes why we think (or feel) that brands such as Prada are design. Perhaps design tries to be invisible while brands try to be visible. So is this a ground figure?

(I'll have to think about a tetrad for brand.)

I was looking for Buckminster Fuller's definition of design but could not find it. But ran across this article by Bill Miller On Design.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Monopoly of Intelligence

The effort to create an intelligence czar has seemed wrong. Diversity brings the best results. Look at how GM beat Ford for years with competing divisions. Maybe it is now clearer why the Pentagon tried their best to derail intelligence reform because Rumsfeld had his own mini-CIA started according to the Washington Post.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Wrong Distinction: Form versus Function?

Design should be a field of study and I don't mean just graphics. I think there are basic principles of design in how we create and use any artifact. In my view this includes buildings, manufacturing, interior design, graphics and much more.

Recently I've wondered if the long debate about form versus function derailed design as a field of study. What if the distinction was not made between form versus function so that the energy that went into the debate had gone into building the field of study?

It would be interesting to write up a set of courses that would compose a major in Design. And then detail the required books for these courses.

Hotel Rwanda: Consequence of Distinction

Hotel Rwanda's setting is the slaughter of Tutsis minority by Hutu majority in Rwanda. The distinction of these people into tribes was a result of colonialism by the Belgians (pdf) though there is more history involved. The movie and the events it portrays make one wonder if the genocide was a result of a distinction. I don't believe that this shifts any blame to a previous generation but rather highlights the difficulty of living with distinctions.


Life's Distinctions

Life is more varied at the boundary. Wish I could cite where I first read this observation. It was talking about wildlife in the meadow and in the forest compared to on that boundary. The observation raises as many questions as it answers.

It is highly unlikely that I'll nail this topic in this post or in this blog. In college I first attempted to read "Laws of Form" which I believe proves this observation and probes the questions it raises. (This book was also definitive proof to me that higher levels of math and philosophy are the same.) But I'm still gathering experiences that will help me understand "Laws of Form". I'm rather sure that John Lilly recommend this book in one of his.

[Note: I have to laugh. I'm working nearly every day during my commute on a large personal web project about HTML forms and I have been searching for a brand name for the project. Laws of Form would have worked.]

Spencer-Brown's idea starts with distinction. It is by drawing a line that distinguish one thing from another. For example, it is easy to draw a distinction between blue and green. And we make a further distinction between blue-green and green-blue but this distinction is not as universally shared. Then throw in two other observations "a rose is a rose is a rose" and that Arctic natives have many more words for snow than we do. These are just some of the questions that distinctions raise, at least for me.

And my observation. I've been doing a lot of house construction lately where I've torn out an old 50's pink bathroom and I'm making the space into two bathrooms. To do this all myself I've had to read many different Home Depot and Lowes books on carpentry, plumbing, electrical and tiling. Like any book they draw distinctions for example, between installing a bathtub and a sink. Or tiling a floor or tiling a bath surround. But these books do a poor job when it comes to the transition between two projects. For example, I had to install both drywall and cement backerboard. The later for the bathtub and the former for the rest of the bathroom. Easy to read how to install both, but nowhere could I read about how to transition from one to the other. I did eventually get my answer on the web.

Which lead me to thinking about how much we miss by the distinctions we live with. We make some of these distinctions, our culture makes others and our technologies make others.

In many ways that is the purpose of this blog and the fun of life. To note the distinctions (the ground/figure) and the consequences  of drawing the distinction.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Thinking in Blog Reverse

In setting up the architecture for XBletter I looking at it from a users perspective. Well usability, user-friendly, consumer, etc. are important, it is more important that the code be simple and elegant. The old form/function argument (which I must blog on in the future).

Shaking the user view, I started looking at the structure of a blog and RSS feed. The key is in the permalink. This is like the foundation upon which everything is built. So the foundation is an unlimited number of HTML pages which are harvested to create an RSS feed. In turn this RSS feed is the source for an XSLT which creates the home page, category pages, archive pages and newsletters. This architecture is independent of the filenames for each HTML page.

Now I'll start creating the modules that make all of this work.