The Networked Image

I first picked up on
Google’s Image Labeler
two days ago (via).
In a nutshell, Image Labeler addresses a semiotic problem: the indexing of
hundreds of thousands of images based on semantic assignments in the visual
field of each image. Indexing an image depends upon the assignment of
keywords that correspond to the objects represented. Google Image Labeler
makes this process into a game of peer review: in this two person game, a player
win points by registering a descriptor that also appears on the other person’s



links (succumbing,
that is, to the beckoning of a surprising curiosity), I briefly started to follow the life
of this conversation in computer science and art. Most intriguing in this
regard was the talk embedded below, a talk called “Human Computation” given by Luis von Ahn at Carnegie

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Katamari Walking

Before Saturday night, I’d never played
Katamari Damacy

and again in
I read about the princely roller pushing the tacky (magnetic?)
ball through the game’s byways, gaining in things, some strategic, many
accidental. All of them counted, catalogued. They’re persistent in my own
Katamari-like memory, the projects I mention, their framing of Katamari Damacy
as an installment of the database logic implicit in much digital writing. Like
toaster ovens placed enigmatically in the middle of the street (what’s that
doing there?
), Katamari logics have joined the clump that is my plan for
WRT302 this fall, too.

Speaking of stickiness (or glue), I’ve been walking
Y. most days
lately. Mornings. We’ve jogged, too, but whether or not I’m jogging,
he walks, mocking me and my slow, laborious pace. Puppies are voracious
collectors; Y., particularly so. He aggregates the street, its detritus,
its unseen flavors. Leeches miscellany: cig. butts, sticks, wilderberries,
leaves, wrappers, styrofoam bits, and so on. This gets at the deep tension in
our relationship (Dr. Phil, Y. takes into his mouth every tiny speck of crap and
debris in reach!). He’s learning "drop." It’s a sweeter
lesson since he’s come to understand that I’m not afraid to dig my fingers into
the dark depths of his kibble-pipe to retrieve the salivascraps rather than have
him ingest them for good. Back to the point of what I was getting at: Y.
is a collector.

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The upcoming issue of The New Yorker includes an article first
released yesterday to the magazine’s web site. 
There: The science of driving directions,"
offers a sharp-right overview of
evolving navigational technologies, running from Rand McNally paper maps to
their updated on-dash equivalents.  A brief history of automobile
navigation gets a few column inches, too; both the "Jones Live-Map" and the "Photo-Auto
Guide" were early twentieth century contrivances for first-person (um,
first-vehicle?) navigating.  Though it’s only briefly mentioned and mixed
in with a bunch of other fun, interesting details, one proposition is that we’re
seeing a resurgence in egocentric navigational devices with various mobile

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Rrove is one of the
latest site-tagging apps making use of Google Maps API (via
& credit). I signed up for
an account this
morning and tested it with a link to the Palmer House in Chicago, site of the
’06 CCCC late next month. Rrove also has a community setting, so it might
be useful for conference hosting, collaborative markups of an area, and so on.
My first impression is that it’s a kind of geospatial, and although
the site still lacks a few features (such as RSS) common to the web 2.0 lineup,
I’m holding out hope that those features will roll out any day now. I have
other motives for seeing a web2.0-rich version of Rrove, not the least of which
is my GEO781 project, which, from my perspective several weeks removed from its
completion, will deal with some of the ways we might begin to recognize
cybercartography as writing. Still fuzzy (not discouragingly so), but I
think I’ll be dealing with Wayfaring,
Frappr and Rrove, developing
some of my earlier thinking on the
memorial froms
, while sorting through theoretical/pedagogical rationale for
(hyper)imagetext integration of geospatial writing. I just received my copy of
Google Maps Hacks
yesterday, too, and after leafing through it for a few minutes, I would guess
it’s going to be manageable to begin working up customized maps very soon.

On a related note, one of my colleagues in class (who studies and teaches
physical geography) raised several really interesting questions about the
discord between the textual/encyclopedic side of Wikipedia and its stalled
counterpart, WikiAtlas. It set us off into some fairly provocative
exchange about atlas authorship, and also got me thinking again about what
Manovich does with paradigmatic and syntagmatic. From my perspective, the
energy surrounding cybercartography is in the multitude of overlays more than
the landforms in the background. The excitement centers on the syntagmatic
possibilities for the map; its writability.

Manovich – The Language of New Media (2001)

Notes on Lev Manovich’s The
Language of New Media
(2001). In the prologue, Manovich gives us what he
calls a Vertov Dataset–full-passage selections from elsewhere in the book
matched up with frames from Vertov.   It’s a distinctive and memorable
way to open onto the project–self-sampling and re-associating, which emphasizes
(paradoxically?) the relational and modular qualities of new media objects, the
intertwined historical-theoretical trajectories of cinema and computing that now
constitute new media, the logics of selection, association and assemblage
driving new media, and the evolving lexicon of new media, from database, loops
and micronarratives to transcoding, [var]-montage and the tele-
It’s all in the Vertov Dataset, then explained more fully elsewhere. 

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I was at the front of the room–staring into the light from the projector
bulb–for most of this morning’s Writing Program TA orientation session on Quick
& Dirty Research.  What put the Q&D in today’s talk?  Aggregation and
RSS.  Everyone going along with it now has a fresh-fed Bloglines account
and 67 subscriptions.  For more, here’s
and the

accompanying screencast
.  I welcome any suggestions; the screencast is
a bit rough in spots (and longer than I’d like).

Basically, the talk hinged on these few thoughts:

  • Aggregation as Q&D (not slow and clean) is applicable for students
    working on projects and also for your work as a teacher, writer, scholar and
  • It leads with questions about the inventive and generative activity rather
    beginning with a hierarchy predicated upon licensed sources (credible if it’s from the library only, myth debunked).
  • It dislodges the material orthodoxy in composition (what materials are
    appropriate for composition, what counts as writing…it’s unbothered by
    intermittent junkiness in feeds).
  • It exonerates us from narrow or unnecessarily constrained reading habits. 
    Qualification: this isn’t meant to disparage book-reading.
  • It productively complicates (or steadies, if you’re into efficiencies) our
    information ecologies and personal knowledge management systems.

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Palm Caked Hard

Quick and Dirty research (really just wanted to see Q in drop caps).  I
accepted an invitation to participate in (talk/click)-ing through a few minutes
of a session for incoming TA’s on Q&D.  A few others will give brief
pitches, too, so I can’t hog the floor (not that I would).  Thinking for
now that I’ll emphasize the D–dirty, as in the perpetual grubbing aligned with
aggregation and a few other must-use sites.  The ‘Dirty’ in research not
only identifies with the hands-dirty dig-dump-sift set of metaphors, as was so
eloquently introduced to me by a memorable professor at my MA alma mater what,
six years ago; it also drops the point of a spade into composition’s material
orthodoxy.  Unsifted presumptions about the material suited to composition
research preserves the orthodoxy (straight phenomenological knowing), avoiding
the deep down griminess, and instead digging materials delicately, troweling
with too much propriety.  Worry-free and proven: Spray-n-Wash. Library
databases: Quick and Clean research–different work involved in plucking a
clean-authorized article (scrubbed by peer review), patching it into an essay.  

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