I have some resolutions for the new year. By posting them onto a public weblog I believe they become officially binding.
- Write more, and read more to improve my writing.
- Live more in each moment. To that end, be more aware of how my time is spent.
- No new projects. Focus instead on fixing and improving things I’ve already begun.
In 2014 Ellie and I exchanged resolutions. Three times a week we each have our respective tasks: I have a regimen of stretches and exercises, and she is supposed to meditate for 5 minutes. We began last January and have been offering each other reminders when we forget to keep up.
My exercises—along the lines of Pilates or Yoga—feel part of my routine now. It seems that one has stuck, and now the resolution has become unnecessary. That ought to be a meta-resolution each year.
Ellie also does her own stretches and exercises, but doesn’t need the same spousal nudge to keep up with her routine. For the sake of balance, I’ll throw in a bonus fourth 2015 resolution: also make time for meditation.
For an extra challenge we launched our weather balloon wifi rig at one of the most canine-dense areas of Central Park.
Twelve years ago, on May 26th, I registered the domain phiffer.org. It started out as a kind of online sketchbook. The first thing I posted here was an experiment in direct manipulation of the page. The point was to surprise visitors with an unexpected opportunity to create something. It’s a very crude drawing interface, and a bit pointless, but I’m amazed that it still works (for the most part). Go web standards!
The site has gone through many permutations since then, but it’s still primarily my online sketchbook. I’ve adopted a fairly conventional weblog format, but I’m still interested in exploring that element of surprise. I’d still like to try out some new things here. More to come!
Update: James reminded me of this box grid interface in the comments.
Looks like the last time I posted events here was in 2010, just before Bushwick Open Studios. Well it’s that time of year again!
- We Are All Anonymous, Tonight May 23rd, 7pm at Triple Canopy, 155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn, NY (sadly I won’t be able to make this, but it sounds awesome)
- Flux Death Match: The New Aesthetic, Wednesday May 30th, 8pm at Flux Factory, 39-31 29th Street, Long Island City
- Bushwick Open Studios 2012 with my Future Archaeology pals, June 1st and 2nd from 12–7pm. 1381 Myrtle Ave Apt 4C (entrance on Himrod St), near the Knickerbocker M train stop. I’ll be showing some of my recent photography work as well as Occupy.here.
The recent absence of regular posting here has mainly been due to project overload on my part. For the last week I’ve been focusing on my activist wifi project, Occupy.here. On Saturday I participated in FEAST Brooklyn, a kind of science fair exposition for community art projects. The way it works is everyone who attends pays $20 for a banquet dinner and a vote for which project of ten should be funded. I did not receive funding, but I got a lot of great feedback and my first round of user testing with about a dozen people trying the project out.
I was satisfied to see the technology performing flawlessly. As far as I know, everyone who tried to was able to join the wifi network and participate in the online forum. I still consider myself a newbie to wifi hacking and programming in Lua, but I’ve mustered enough stability to start paying more attention to interaction design and social dynamics. Seeing how people used the software in practice was really interesting. It seems obvious in retrospect, but presenting an anonymous message forum to such a festive audience yielded an uncomplicated gregarious kind of conversation.
While the forum’s conversation didn’t cover politics or the Occupy movement, the invisible backchannel aspect of it was compelling. The first, most active, message thread was about the food at the event. Apparently the cheese was a big hit, although sadly I wasn’t able to try it myself. This thread included the forum’s first hash tag, #CheeseRevolution, and a long string of emoji burgers. In another thread an attendee complained they’d come to the event without a date, boldly listing a phone number that presumably belongs to the lonely author. I was amused to see the AOL-era “ASL” (age/sex/location) inquiry and “Anyone got any weed?” It was silly and fun, and felt entirely appropriate to the event.
How the discussion is framed in a broader social context is very important. In the deployment at FEAST, users were offered an open architecture without many cues about which topics of conversation the forum is meant to support. The next iteration will feature a more prominent introduction to the Occupy.here platform and host an archive of essays and media about the Occupy movement from a variety of sources.
I’m interested to see what effect, if any, these changes have on the subject and character of conversations. I wonder if deemphasizing the message forum might preclude conversation altogether, favoring a passive mode of media consumption. I’ll gather some usage data to see how many users browse without participating.
Users identified themselves about 50% of the time, half posting under the default handle “Anonymous” and half adopting first names or two letter initials. For my next round of testing I’m going to adjust the interface where users select their usernames, perhaps not offering a default option. I’m still committed to supporting anonymity, despite the challenges it creates in reaching higher level discussions. I do think it’s possible and perhaps making all users uniquely identifiable might contribute toward discussions with slightly more substance.
Probably the most important factor for user behavior is the physical (and social) context the wifi router appears in. This coming Saturday I’ll be showing Occupy.here at the Activist Technology Demo Day event at Eyebeam. I’m guessing the audience will be more oriented toward technology and activism. The location of the venue, in Chelsea rather than Greenpoint, will also have some bearing on the next round of users. That’s a lot of variables changing at once, but I’ll be sure to post my decidedly non-scientific findings next week.
For the last few days I’ve been preoccupied with preparing an installation I made with Future Archaeology, just barely getting it ready in time for the opening. I’ll write about that project in future posts, but I thought I should share this magnificent documentation of a project we did one year ago in the same gallery, Splatterpool artspace.
I recall being fairly inarticulate the night we did our group interview in the gallery, so my part in the video is a non-speaking one, but the other members of the group did a fine job of explaining our project Ohm Ω. I think Tom, in particular, has a knack for describing what it is we’re doing with our collaborations.
The Future Archaeology part starts about 15 minutes in.
See also: a longer video of the Ohm Ω performance
The 1st of January is as arbitrary as any day to designate a new year. Reading the Wikipedia article on the Gregorian calendar outlines some of the competing times to round out a new year — in March, May, September, December, as well as January — even when limiting oneself to the history of Europe.
But here I am, reflecting on the year ahead. Here is a short list of specific resolutions I’ve set out for myself:
- Read more books
- Write more blog posts
- Take more photos, take a photography course at ICP
- Work through my Instapaper queue (currently at 1,219 unread articles!)
- Focus on finishing and polishing my existing projects
- Favor those projects that help me keep in touch with friends and family
It’s in the interest of this last resolution that I’m setting aside the book I’ve recently started to start reading The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, which was recommended by my friend James. I like the idea of synchronizing my reading with friends for the sake of discussion. In case you might be interested in doing the same, I’ve added my Goodreads profile to my list of networks in the sidebar (heads up to RSS feed subscribers, there’s a sidebar you can’t see from there!).
I suppose I’ve taken some inspiration from Woody Gothrie’s 1942 “New Years Rulin’s”, many of which I also aspire to for the coming year:
- Work more and better
- Work by a schedule
- Wash teeth if any
- Take bath
- Eat good — fruit, vegetables, milk
- Drink very scant if any
- Write a song a day
- Wear clean clothes — look good
- Shine shoes
- Change socks
- Change bed clothes often
- Read lots of good books
- Listen to radio a lot
- Learn people better
- Keep rancho clean
- Don’t get lonesome
- Stay glad
- Keep hoping machine running
- Dream good
- Bank all extra money
- Save dough
- Have company but don’t waste time
- Send Mary and kids money
- Play and sing good
- Dance better
- Help win war — beat Fascism
- Love Mama
- Love Papa
- Love Pete
- Love everybody
- Make up your mind
- Wake up and fight
Just a heads up that I’ve created a sign-up page for my Mailchimp announcements email list. I use this now and then to get the word out about exhibitions or events I’m involved in. Of course if you’re interested in getting in touch personally, my email is also down there in the ‘Meta’ section of the phiffer.org sidebar!