The Screenless Office

Current interface culture is dominated by a few large corporatate players: google/Alphabet, Apple, Microsoft. For many of us who spend countless hours working, socializing and amusing ourselves while using technical media, these powerful players have a huge influence on our experience of everyday life. Our perception of the world around us and how we see ourselves in, it is mediated by the decisions of a few privileged managers, programmers and designers, mostly male and white on the west coast of the United States. To suggest any other way of living in a networked society is to risk being percieved as blasphemous, uncool, out-of-touch, escapist or simply absurd. These interfaces have become so embedded in our conception of reality that we now have a crisis of the imagination, where it is difficult to even think of anything different.

Removing the screen is a radical gesture denying conformity to the dominating forces of contemporary interface culture. By getting rid of the display, we force digital text and images back into the old conventions of print culture. While this might have a superficial, nostalgic appeal, more importantly, it puts us into the role of acting like amateur media archeologists, investigating the history of modern visual, literary and bureaucratic systems both technical and social. At the same time, by taking newer forms of digital media and packing it into the old container of print, we open up a new experimental field of analog-digital hybrid forms. Our goal is to discover and invent novel ways of living in the digital world which might be more informal, expressive and embodied.

The Screenless Office is a system for working with media and networks without using a pixel-based display. It is an artistic operating system. The office presents a radically alternative form of everyday human interaction with media. It is constructed using free/libre/open hard- and software components, especially for print, databases, web-scraping and tangible interaction. Currently, it exists as a working prototype with software “bureaus” which allow a user to read and navigate news, web sites and social media entirely with the use of various printers for output and a barcode scanner for input. While our existing software allows for interesting new ways of consuming media, we are currently working to expand the system to make it capable of publishing content and thereby, enabling a provocative possibility for active participation in contemporary social life.

Quoted from: The Screenless Office. Via Jeu de paume espace virtuel, May 2017.

Games on Disc More Energy Efficient than Downloads

videogame 2

Assasin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

“This research investigates the carbon footprint of the lifecycle of console games, using the example of PlayStation 3 distribution in the UK. We estimate total carbon equivalent emissions for an average 8.8-gigabyte game based on data for 2010. Two delivery scenarios are compared: the first examines Blu-ray discs delivered by retail stores, and the second, games files downloaded over broadband internet.”

“Contrary to current consensus that downloaded data will result in lower carbon emissions than distribution by disc, producing and distributing an average-sized game by Blu-ray disc in 2010 resulted in approximately 50 to 90% less emissions than downloading. The estimated carbon emissions from downloading only fall below that of Blu-ray discs for games smaller than 1.3 gigabyte. The study findings serve to illustrate why it is not always true that digital distribution of media will have lower carbon emissions than distribution by physical means when file sizes are large.”

[Read more…]

Kremlin Replaces Computers by Typewriters

“Russia’s Federal Protection Service (FSO), the Kremlin agency that protects state officials like the president and the prime minister, has ordered 20 typewriters in an apparent bid to avoid leaks and surveillance like those revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.” Read more. Via Slashdot.

Computers in Education

“The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school here. So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard. But the school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.”

Read more: A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute. Hat tip to Kris Peeters.

Best Curta Pictures Ever

curta

Curta pictures (thank you, Richard). More information on the device (previously): “Computing without electricity“.

Competing with Computers

dead reckoning

Magnetic deviation, lightning calculators, nomograms and more “lost arts in the mathematical sciences” at Dead Reckonings. Related: Satellite navigation in the 18th century.

 

Antivirus Software Sucks

And:

“It’s not just AV software. The entire software industry operates this way.

1. Shovel feature-rich bug-ware onto unsuspecting schlubs to build “brand”
(especially in the enterprise/IT market where the person purchasing the
software is often not the person who has to use it, so they make
decisions based on feature list and brand name rather than quality)
2. Wait for hobbyists, researchers, or smaller companies to figure out how to do it right
3. Buy their companies
4. Repeat”

Quoted from the discussion at Slashdot.

One Day We Will All Be Writing and Revising Code

“Computers tend to replace one category of worker with another. There are two ways to get something done. You can find one group trained to accomplish things the old-fashioned way. Or you can pay another group to set up and maintain machines and systems that will do the same work with fewer employees – of the older category of worker. You are not really replacing people with machines; you are replacing one kind of person-plus-machine with another kind of machine-plus-person.

When IBM persuaded corporations to modernize their bookkeeping in the 1950s, businesses were able to get along with far fewer accountants, as they expected, but they had to hire more programmers than they had anticipated. Automatic teller systems also require programmers and technicians paid four times as much as bank tellers.

If things go well, banks need less than a quarter of the staff, and they come out ahead. But it is notoriously difficult to predict all problems, or their levels of difficulty, in advance. And one mark of newer technology is that while it is cheap in routine operation, it is expensive to correct and modify.”

Quoted from: “Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences“, Edward Tenner, p.245 (Amazon link).

Homebrewed CPU

Homebred CPU

“Intel’s fabrication plants can churn out hundreds of thousands of processor chips a day. But what does it take to handcraft a single 8-bit CPU and a computer? Give or take 18 months, about $1,000 and 1,253 pieces of wire.”

Via Wired. More about the project here.