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What is Next Nature?

With our attempts to cultivate nature, humankind causes the rising of a next nature, which is wild and unpredictable as ever. Wild systems, genetic surprises, autonomous machinery and splendidly beautiful black flowers. Nature changes along with us.

Posts Tagged ‘Digital-Presence’

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    Digital Sharing Becomes Physical

    Our urge to share everything – photos, food, video games scores – is blurring the line between reality and digital life. Looking at the human history of sharing experiences, it’s highly likely that this line will totally disappear in the near future.

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    Lions Relax in Morning Traffic

    Old nature meets next nature as a pair of lions prepare for their day amidst morning traffic, while human bystanders snap photos and upload them to Facebook. As cities and suburbs infringe on lion habitat, these carnivores are increasingly becoming synanthropes – animals that, welcome or not, live in association with human habitations. Image via Naij.

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    Serious Gamers Assist Society

    Ever imagined that your gaming addiction might help cure cancer? A new generation of computer games have been introduced that deal with citizen science. Citizen science games like Phylo, Foldit and Galaxy Zoo are called serious games, since they carry a serious goal: Providing scientific knowledge through play. This can help with research in topics from life-threatening diseases to decoding ancient manuscripts.

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    Google’s Shoes Talk to Runners

    After Google Glasses, the electronic ring and the self-driving car, Google just presented this new surprising product in Austin, Texas, during the South by Southwest Interactive conference. The “talking” sneakers, designed by Google in collaboration with the artist Zach Lieberman and the collective YesYesNo, act like a training coach. Fitted with a whole package of electronic devices like a speed detector, pressure sensors in the soles, a gyroscope, a tiny screen and speakers, the shoes also contain a Bluetooth connection. Therefore, they can provide the runner with information and advice about their activity. Like a real coach, they can also motivate or reprehend you if necessary.

    The information is then shown on the tiny screen, which is quite inconvenient for those who aren’t able to look only at their feet while running. But Google has thought about everything: the Bluetooth connection also sends the data to a smartphone app and automatically publishes messages on the user’s Google account, so that anybody can check if you’re taking a sneaky break during your jog. This might be worse than an actual coach!

    From Future Sciences.

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    Exploring the Offline World, if It Still Exists

    Even though the world wide web has steadily penetrated each aspect of our life since its inception at CERN, it seems that today we still refer to digital technology as existing in a world other than our own. Instead we inhabit the seperate realms of ‘digital’ and ‘real’. Although we focus on bringing down the barriers between these worlds, it may be they’ve already totally merged, without us even noticing. Has the digital fabric of technology inextricably integrated with our lives, or might we still be able to live without it?

    Last year, Paul Miller, a tech blogger at The Verge, asked himself a similar question. He disconnected himself from the internet, kicking off a year of ‘offline’ existence. A year of unbridled potential, away from the ‘unnatural’  internet. Miller set to discover what the internet had done to him, by studying it from a distance. He would try to understand the ways in which internet was corrupting us, and enable us to fight back against its influence.

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    Google Birdhouse Shows Birds Their Way

    Maybe the Taiwanese artist Shuchun Hsiao was inspired by a cold winter day to reinvent the common birdhouse in the shape of the Google Maps icon. The designer understood the importance and the omnipresence of Google Maps in our society and created the Google Birdhouse Project, a modern way to accommodate birds in urban spaces.

    The iconic symbol references the “surfing” of flying birds to find their arrival point, just like Google Maps does for humans. As Shuchun Hsiao explains: “Birds have the most real experience of Google Maps. Birds can fly through the city, through streets. A birdhouse becomes their destination”.

    Eye-catching, but not intrusive, these niches are also interesting urban decorations. The micro in the macro, the abstract becoming material, the virtual in the real: the result of the Google Birdhouse is bewildering and strong. Perhaps something dealing with Twitter would have been more predictable.

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    Anthropo-scene #2: The Mind’s Lianas

    When Édouard Le Roy, Vladimir Vernadsky and Teilhard de Chardin started to describe in the 1920s how the “noosphere”, the sphere of the human mind, grows into the geosphere and the biosphere, they were already talking about something very real. Yet until today we continue to talk as if our global systems for communicating and exchanging thoughts are somehow immaterial and other-wordly. Today’s “clouds”, in which our data are kept safe, create the metaphor that information turns ethereal once it is stored. Yet the opposite is true. With a multitude of cables, electromagnetic interventions and very material computers, the noosphere is a geological reality of increasing volume and it is increasingly a part of Anthropocene nature. This is what Anthropo-scene #2, on the Indonesian island of Bali, shows: A new species of vine-like plant which could be aptly called Liana noospherica by a new, yet-to-come breed of naturalists that give the new entities of the noosphere scientific names.

    This is the second in the Anthropo-scene series. For the first post, click here

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    The Hedonometer Uses Social Media to Measure Global Happiness

    Are you using Twitter? Then you might be measured as part of the world’s happiness. A team of scientists from the University of Vermont and The MITRE Corporation have developed a tool to measure global happiness, the Hedonometer.

    The Hedonometer is based on people’s online expressions, capitalizing on data-rich social media, and measuring how people present themselves to the outside world. Right now, this research is updated every 24 hours, but eventually it will be updated every minute. Soon the Hedonometer will draw on other data streams, like Google Trends, the New York Times, blogs, and broadcast news. It’s already been used to measure the happiest and saddest American cities (Napa, California, and Beaumont, Texas, respectively) and will eventually provide real-time comparisons between cities’ moods. Additionally, the Hedonometer will help to determine if small-scale events, such as the recent Boston bombings, have an impact on the global psyche.

    The Hedonometer is just one more step to merging the technosphere with the biosphere. Check it out to see if the rest of the world is aligned with your feelings.

    Photo via Phys.org

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    Electric Skin Could Allow Robots to Feel

    There are plenty of robot arms out there, but what about the skin to cover them in? A new kind of piezotronic transistor mesh could make for robotic skin that’s as sensitive as your own is, covered in thousands of tiny mechanical hairs.

    The inventor of the technology, Zhong Lin Wan from Georgia Tech, says it has immediate applications in human-machine interfaces. It could for example be used to capture electronic signatures by recording the distinctive force an individual applies while signing. In due time, Wan expects the pressure sensor arrays could equip robotics and prosthetics with a human-like sense of touch.

    Via Gizmodo, via Techreview.

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    Deliver us from Digital Bluntness

    The internet is a wonderful tool, with huge potential and is often used with positive results. But more recently it is becoming apparent how, as a tool, it dehumanises and makes people lose a grip on the reality of their actions and the implications of their voice.

    Take for example a social tool such as Twitter. It’s mission statement is simply ““To instantly connect people everywhere to what’s most important to them.” with 140 characters it does this quite well. But at the same time things can also go wrong. Being such an open platform it allows for anyone to read anything you write (assuming your settings aren’t set to private) and yes, that includes your boss!

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    Bye Bye Barbed Wire: Cow-Mounted GPS Will Enable “Virtual Fencing”

    Vast and sparsely populated, the rangeland in the western US is managed on horseback, on ATVs, and with thousands of miles of barbed wire fencing. Fencing is both a vital and imperfect technology. In the arid regions that stretch from Texas to Idaho, grass that is thick and green one week might be dust and tumbleweeds the next. Patches of poisonous plants come and go. Endangered birds might nest along a lush river for only a few weeks out of the year.

    Put into widespread use in the late 1870s, the barbed wire fence destroyed one quintessentially American “technology” – that of the cowboy. It may now be time for a new technology to usurp the reign of barbed wire. Using GPS and a “bovine interface”, Dean M. Anderson, a scientist at the US Department of Agriculture, is hoping to transform the way we manage cattle, and by extension, the entire ecology of the American West.

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    Design Looking Backwards

    Why do phones make the noise of a camera shutter every time a picture is taken, the save icon remain a floppy disk, your email have an envelope and your iCalendar look like its made from a cow?

    On the one hand, being the creatures of habit that we are, we find comfort in the familiar. But does that come at a cost and limit functionality, as well as cheapen our experiences?

    In products the real material generally costs more and (arguably) is perceived as better. (Think solid aluminium Macbook Air vs Ultrabook) but in the digital we’re already aware that the form is generally 2D and not physical.

    In a sense skeuomorphism makes the digital more approachable and understandable, the argument remains as to whether we now need our digital technology to imitate that which exists, or on the other hand do we expect our technology to surpass the physical?

    Handwritings great, but I guess most people bought a phone to type, and reading “marker felt” on a 4″ screen in pt. 7 size font is painful at best. Bring on Helvetica. Or better yet Newvetica.

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    Software That Fakes An Active Social Life While You’re On The Sofa

    Now that our cooler friends can Instagram, tweet, and FourSquare the heck out of every underground concert and speakeasy cocktail, FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) has become a persistent problem for the less-hip. But there’s hope for those who would rather spend their Saturday nights watching re-runs of Downton Abbey than heading downtown to the newest brewpub.

    The new application CouchCachet promises to give you the fully-booked, in-the-know life you so desperately wish to present. The app is a full-service social booster: Not only does it check you in to the trendiest places in your neighborhood, it also periodically tweets obscure lyrics and photos of hipsters in skinny jeans. As one of the quotes from the site says: “I can finally  be who I want you to think I am”. And what you are, along with the rest of the internet, is mostly an algorithm.

    Via the New York Times.

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    Chinese Whisper Challenge Pits Man Against Machine

    What would happen if you let computer and man compete? Not in obvious ways, like who can do faster calculations or win the Jeopardy game show. Rather, what about a challenge right on the border of our abilities?

    Speech is one such border. Many smartphones have fairly advanced speech recognition. Although humans can still recognize spoken words much better than a computer, we can easily misinterpret a message or forget it. To pit human against machine, design student Ylja Band made an online experiment in which she makes man and machine compete in the form of the Chinese whisper challenge. The human participant and the computer try to pass the same message via speech, ending up with very different results.

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  • Moral Shortcomings in the Technology Debate

    Digital and genetic techniques increasingly influence life. Our belief in progress through technology stands in the way of a moral debate on this development.

    By Rinie van Est

    We keep a close watch on what voters and members of parliament want, but the future of our society is determined by something else: technological development. At least, that’s what thinkers such as Dominique Janicaud believe, who wrote: ‘Technological power is more revolutionary than any revolution; it comes from above, no one can know where it is going’. In views such as these, the role of politics is limited to properly spreading technological innovations. I do not agree with this. Without trying to undermine the revolutionary force of technology, I do think politics is capable of a democratic steering of technology to a certain degree. In fact, I believe that interaction between the political domain and the techno-economic domain is the essence of our democracy. But here, politics is neglectful, because it has a blind spot for the ideological role that technology plays in our society.

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